One million Austrians have a drink problem

Around one million people in Austria consume too much alcohol. The initiative “Alkohol ohne Schatten” (Alcohol without Shadows) criticises that the extensive medical treatment is not enough rewarded.

Michael Musalek, medical head of the Anton Proksch Institute and founder of the initiative said: “Alcohol is part of our society. Therfore, we have to learn how to deal with it correctly. We need consciousness raising and education.

“The starting age is between eleven and thirteen years. The earlier the disease is recognized the better is the prognosis”, Mr Musalek went on.

Johannes Steinhart, head of the resident doctors in the Austrian Medical Association, emphasised the significance of the problem: “Around 340,000 Austrians are alcoholics; 760,000 people drink amounts of alcohol that are not healthy any more. The direct costs are 375 million Euros per year.

“Too much alcohol damages the digestive tract, increases the risk of breast cancer, it damages the heart and the vessels, increases the risk of a heart attack and a stroke and leads to neurological disorder”, he went on.

According to Mr Steinhart, the health system does not show enough consideration for alcoholics. “This means that resident GPs shall diagnose an alcoholic disease. They have to ask the affected person and tell them that a therapy is necessary.

“This is connected with a lot of effort and high time expenditure, which has been rewarded very badly so far”, the expert explained.

In times of the health reform it is necessary to provide resources for the treatment of people with alcohol problems, said Mr Steinhart. It is also important that the financing is not dependent on the economic cycle as people tend to have more problems with alcohol in times of crisis.